Changed your mind on health care? You're not alone
The Kansas City Star
Conservatives’ fury over Chief Justice John Roberts’ surprising ruling in support of President Barack Obama’s health care law has crystallized into a shocking accusation.
He changed his mind.
How dare he?
Only a week after the court announced its long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a scenario first based on speculation has been confirmed by “sources” and emerged as a meme.
It goes like this: The chief justice at first found the law’s individual insurance mandate to be unconstitutional. He may even have begun composing an opinion to reflect that view. But then, because he is foolish enough to read newspapers and care about the image of the court, Roberts flipped. Rather than wreak havoc with an act of Congress, he found a way to make the mandate constitutional, thereby rescuing the law and, possibly, the Obama presidency.
The effrontery. The betrayal. Based on the fury of the conservative right, Roberts will be right up there with Judas in the annals of treachery.
Well, maybe he flipped and maybe he didn’t. We’ll probably have to wait for the memoirs to know for sure.
But so what? Roberts wouldn’t be the first Supreme to change his or her mind, and he won’t be the last. Apparently it happens quite often. Justice Anthony Kennedy once wrote a majority opinion blessing prayer at a public high school graduation, then rejected it, turned around and wrote an opinion for a different 5-4 majority declaring the prayer out of bounds.
A change of mind is everyone’s prerogative, especially when it comes to health care.
Ask Mitt Romney. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee flips several times a day on the subjects of health care in general and the individual mandate in particular.
In 2006, flush with victory after signing Romneycare into law in Massachusetts, then-Gov. Romney described the requirement that everyone must purchase insurance or pay a penalty as “a Republican way of reforming the market.” Now he says the mandate and the rest of the Affordable Care Act are “bad policy and bad law.”
But at least Romney, through a spokesman, agreed with Obama that the penalty for not purchasing insurance wasn’t the same as a tax. Until he changed his mind and decided it was.
Obama himself, as a candidate, seemed to find the idea of an insurance mandate preposterous when his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, proposed it. Six months into his presidency, he proclaimed it to be a responsible idea.
Here’s the thing about health care — it’s just hard. There are no pat solutions for guaranteeing access and holding down costs. The subject is rife with ethical dilemmas and policy traps. Thoughtful people change their minds for practical and principled reasons and cynical people change their minds for political reasons.
Ordinary people change their minds as often as the politicians.
Seniors who will tell you they didn’t survive the Great Depression and fight in World War II to see America turned into a welfare state oppose government-provided health care until it is pointed out to them that Medicare is exactly that.
Younger adults proclaim allegiance to free market health care until someone in the family comes down with a chronic illness and insurance premiums climb to unaffordable levels. Workers who insist they can provide for themselves and their families with no help from government are suddenly out of a job and without money to afford a doctor’s visit for a sick child.
Insurance companies used to change their minds, too. They’d underwrite somebody and then cancel the policy once a patient became sick. It’s a heinous reversal that’s outlawed in the Affordable Care Act.
Minds change, politicians vote, the Supreme Court holds hearings. A chief justice with a conservative mindset perhaps changes his mind and places constitutional considerations ahead of ideology.
That’s his right, and we should never change our minds on that point.
*To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at bshelly. *